Astroloba herrei

Astroloba herrei, W of Prince Albert
Astroloba herrei Uitewaal
by Jakub Jilemicky and Steven Molteno

herrei: after the botanist Adolar Gottlieb Julius Herre (1895–1979)

Astroloba herrei is a relatively rare species, which is closely related to the widespread Astroloba spiralis and can be hard to distinguish when not in flower. Like its relatives, it has sharply-pointed matt-surfaced leaves. It also has inflated, puffed-up cream flowers. However unlike spiralis, its flowers are not rugose (wrinkled). 

Astroloba herrei, W of Prince Albert
The only sure way to distinguish this species is by its flowers (inflated, but not wrinkled); however a relatively accurate judgement can also be made by looking out for herrei’s typically faint bluish tint in the colour of its leaves, for fine striations under its leaf surfaces, and for the slightly more tear-drop shape of the leaves. While these can help identification, it is only the flowers which can be conclusive, as none of the other features serve as a perfect rule.

The flowers appear on slender inflorescences at the end of winter (roughly from July to November)

Distribution map
The distribution of this species is both unusual and interesting. Its two localities which are so far confirmed (there might be others) are widely separated. One stretches west and south of Prince Albert, just north of the Swartberg mountains. The other is just outside Uniondale, on the eastern edge of the Little Karoo. (Reinecke reports another possible locality on the mountain foothills south of Oudtshoorn. In both confirmed spots, it grows in shaley soil, and is especially common within bushes which provide it with some shelter from extreme sun and heat.

Astroloba herrei, W of Prince Albert
It is unclear what this disparate distribution means. One can as yet only hypothesise. Was the species once more widespread, and these localities are merely refugia for surviving relict populations? Or maybe its methods of dispersal have allowed its seed to carry over great distances? Is it even a species in the normal sense or is it just the result of genes which are present throughout populations in between, but only happen to show up separately in these two widely separated populations. We do not yet know, and only further research will be able to find out the true story of this interesting little plant.

In cultivation, in order to bring out the best of this species’ almost luminous colour, mild shade is advised. In direct sun, the plants go yellow, and can even lose leaves due to heat stress. As with all Astrolobas, extremely well-drained soil and sparing watering is necessary for healthy plant.

Astroloba dodsoniana

Known localities:
  • W of Prince Albert (3322AA)
  • Scholtzkloof (3322AC)
  • 5 km SWW of Prince Albert (3322AA)
  • NW of Uniondale
Astroloba herrei, Scholtzkloof
Astroloba herrei, Scholtzkloof
Astroloba herrei, Scholtzkloof
Astroloba herrei, Scholtzkloof
Locality of A. herrei, Scholtzkloof
Astroloba herrei, W of Prince Albert
Astroloba herrei, W of Prince Albert
Locality of A. herrei, W of Prince Albert

No comments: